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October 2008:
From the archives
Posted by JVJ @ 2:30 pm
October 31st : 2008
Here I am three winters back in Central Park, Manhattan, doing my best to blend in with the art installation The Gates. “Orange,” I said. “I’ll show you orange.” And I did, adding to the overall orangeness of New York state by a small but unmistakable margin. It was pretty cold that day (-4F), but The Gates were sunny and people liked them and a little bit more orange in the world never hurt.
Day 64: Winter Commeth
Posted by Biggie @ 4:50 pm
October 30th : 2008
Mystic River, the waterway not the movie
Posted by JVJ @ 11:21 am
October 29th : 2008

Here are a couple of photos I took on Saturday while I was out and about in Mystic. The drawbridge is neat. Considering the weight involed, the process of raising and lowering the span happens suprisingly quickly--five minutes from start to finish. The span weighs 660 tonns, and the shed-sized counterweights four hundred and sixty.
NY Times, one step behind?
Posted by JVJ @ 11:25 am
October 28th : 2008

Could they be reading this humble that esteemed publication? Last week I wrote about Yaddo. This week they write about Yaddo. The week before I reported about ziplining. A couple of days later they do the same. Their column didn't have video of the reporter actually ziplining. Ours did. Their report about Yaddo didn't include an actual field trip to Yaddo. Ours did. In fairness, their report did mention that a lot of sex happens at the historic artists' retreat. Your fearless reporter missed that fact entirely. I was there a week ago though, and can categorically state that no one was having sex in the rose garden.
Posted by JVJ @ 9:53 am
October 28th : 2008
I visited Rhode Island briefly on Saturday, taking the short drive from Mystic up the coast to Misquamicut State Beach. Misquamicut is a Native American word meaning “red salmon at this place”. I didn’t see any salmon, but I did see sand dunes and the Atlantic and mile after mile of perfect beach.
Mystic Connecticut
Posted by JVJ @ 12:58 pm
October 27th : 2008

I visited Connecticut at the weekend, my first ever time in the Constitution State. It’s also known as The Land of Steady Habits; I’m not sure why. The oaks were turning gold and the sun shone both days, and the temperature crept up toward seventy.

I stayed in Mystic which is famous for Mystic Pizza and the Mystic River. The river is named for the Pequot phrase for great river, “missi-tuck”. It was here in 1637 that English settlers set fire to the Pequot village and then stood by with muskets to shoot everyone who escaped. Deaths have been estimated between 400-700, mostly women and children. The Mystic Massacre broke the Pequot tribe, and they ceased to exist until tribal resurgence in the 20th century.
Day 59: Is that a crunchie I see before me?
Posted by Biggie @ 1:02 pm
October 25th : 2008
Email Question
Posted by JVJ @ 11:24 am
October 24th : 2008

What do you use to write with? -Len W

I use an iBook G4, before that a Powerbook G4, before that a G3 laptop, before that a Powerbook 150...all the way back to this little fellow, the classic Macintosh 128. All of them, with the exception of the iBook, are in the garage gathering dust. The Mac 128 still boots up, which is more than I can say of the Powerbook 150, or Thermo-Nuclear Meltdown Machine as I like to call it.

As far as software goes, I don't use anything fancy. Appleworks, which used to be Claris, works just fine for me. When the time comes to send in a digital file of a manuscript I simply convert the files to MS Word.
Day 57: It's come to this
Posted by Biggie @ 7:14 am
October 23rd : 2008
Book Season
Posted by JVJ @ 9:10 am
October 22nd : 2008

It's that time of year: Book Season. The U.K. paperback edition of Sword From Red Ice should be hitting the shops next week.

To mark this epic event I'm toying with the idea of a contest. A fiendish contest. I cannot divulge the details, except to say that I've already recused myself from the judging process in readiness. And no, you can't be the judge instead. Stay tuned.
Posted by JVJ @ 6:32 am
October 21st : 2008

Sunday’s excursion was a thirty mile drive north to the outskirts of Saratoga Springs where you’ll find the Yaddo mansion nestled in forty acres of parkland. Yaddo is an artists' retreat founded “to nurture the creative process by providing an opportunity for artists to work without interruption in a supportive environment.” Basically you get to stay and eat for free while you work on your latest book/symphony/art installation. It’s pretty nice. There’s a rose garden, ponds, fountains, arbors, woods, even a waterfall. Residents stay for an average of five weeks, and their privacy and quiet is zealously guarded. Alumni include Patricia Highsmith, Philip Roth, Sylvia Plath and Leonard Bernstein.

So the question is how do you become a resident of this idyllic program? Follow the link to your left for an application form. Yaddo encourages artists at all stages of their careers, in all countries of the world, to send samples of their work for peer assessment.
Annual airing of ghost deer
Posted by JVJ @ 6:18 am
October 20th : 2008
Day 51: Snuck back in house
Posted by Biggie @ 8:50 pm
October 17th : 2008
Suspect leads police on rooftop chase
Posted by JVJ @ 6:24 am
October 16th : 2008

3:42 pm, Upstate NY. Police were lead on a dramatic rooftop chase earlier today by Eggplant #2, who is wanted for questioning in connection with the death of Eggplant #1. An anonymous caller alerted police to the Upstate residence, where they arrived to find the suspect already in flight. “He was fast,” said Senior Detective J.V. Jones. “You don’t expect that kind of speed from an eggplant. A runner bean maybe, but not an eggplant.”

Police took to the rooftops in pursuit, but the suspect executed a series of death-defying leaps, jumping from rooftop to rooftop across the neighborhood and was soon lost from sight. “I’ll get him,” swore Jones, still breathless from the chase. “And when I do I’ll eat him for dinner with some red sauce and a nice Chianti.”
Day 49: What did Eggplant #2 say...
Posted by Biggie @ 6:05 am
October 15th : 2008
Position that changed a war
Posted by JVJ @ 6:21 am
October 13th : 2008

Here I am standing at the site of the American river fortifications at Saratoga, the position that changed a war. It's a powerful position, commanding both the Hudson River and the road to Albany, effectively closing off all corridors to the south and forcing the British to attack. A Polish engineer was responsible for establishing the fortifications, a volunteer to the Patriot cause, Thaddeus Kosciuszko.
Saratoga Battlefield
Posted by JVJ @ 6:14 am
October 13th : 2008

On Saturday I drove twenty miles north to Saratoga Battlefield. You feel it straightway, sadness and respect for the men who fought and died here. The most decisive battle of the War of Independence was fought here, and you can walk the American and British lines and see what the soldiers saw, smell what they smelled, hear the same grass crunch beneath your feet. The land has been preserved. Defensive positions, redoubts and camps have been carefully staked. The farmhouse used as the American staff officers headquarters still stands. The Breymann Redoubt where Benedict Arnold sustained a leg wound while capturing the British-held position can be walked. You can stand on the exact spot where Frazer fell in battle. The Saratoga Battlefield is one of the most meaningful sites in America. It's quiet and heartbreakingly beautiful and full of ghosts.
Day 44: Am very stupid Biggie
Posted by Biggie @ 8:03 pm
October 10th : 2008
Email Question
Posted by JVJ @ 7:52 pm
October 9th : 2008

Where do you get your ideas from? -Andre S

I’ve written about this in several other posts here and here. For me, ideas are like icebergs: There’s a greater mass beneath the water than is visible to the naked eye. The only way to illustrate this is with an example so here goes.

In one of the final scenes in A Fortress of Grey Ice, Ash and the two Far Riders are driven onto a floating bridge by wolves. Until I came to write the chapter I had no idea what was going to happen beyond the fact that either Ark Veinsplitter or Mal Naysayer would be killed. As I drove the party of three toward the river, a series of thoughts, memories and ideas cascaded through my head. A few months earlier I’d watched this video of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse so the idea of having some kind of bridge calamity quickly sprung to mind. Another image in my mind was from The French Lieutenant's Women, of a cloaked and hooded Meryl Streep on a seawall above the water. The two images didn’t seem to fit together, but there they were in my head. Also, earlier in the book something the character Crope had said about the past while watching a fisherman launch his boat stayed with me. “That was what he hoped the past was like...a boat sailing away as you stood upon the shore.” The idea of someone being physically separated from their past (and therefore the pain of that past) was still resonating as I wrote the new scene.

The final factors were two drives I’d taken. One, many years ago from Seattle to Medina, and a second in Vermont, six months earlier. The first drive took me across the world’s largest floating bridge, though I didn’t know it at the time. I was simply aware that I was driving very close to the water, and was impressed by the experience to the extent that it laid down a strong memory. The second drive caused a less vivid impression but just as strong a memory. I drove past a sign to a town named Floating Bridge.

I’m like a magpie with names. Whenever I come across a name that has “magic” (that elusive ability to suggest something greater than the sum of its parts) in it, I horde it. Floating Bridge, for me, was such a name. As I wrote the new scene, the name turned over in my head and exposed its other side. It wasn’t just a good place name, it was an actual object: a bridge that floated on the water. The cascade in my head stopped. All the tumblers lined up. The lock opened and an idea was set free. I would drive Ash onto a floating bridge, have one side of the bridge come unmoored, and leave readers with the image of Ash floating downstream away from danger. It was all research after that.

So there it is: the idea. Sloppy, sprawling, nonsensical, born from the bits and pieces of a life. You can see how it would be difficult to give advice on how to generate them. Keep doing what we do: live, travel, read, watch movies, observe people, learn things, ask questions, take a walk. Pause. Think.
Fearless reporter feels real fear
Posted by JVJ @ 5:40 pm
October 8th : 2008

A couple of Sundays back, I drove to Bolton Landing (not to be confused with Bolton England--not far from where I grew up) and went to play at Adirondack Extreme Adventures. This was fun. And just a little bit scary. A series of obstacle courses strung high in the trees, with nothing between you and certain death except a carabiner clip. You've watched the video, now here are the photographs of your fearless reporter in action. Repeat after me; Don't look down!
Day 41: Psst
Posted by Biggie @ 9:02 pm
October 7th : 2008
From the waterfall archives
Posted by JVJ @ 2:56 pm
October 6th : 2008

Here's a shot from two years ago at the highest waterfall in Massachusetts, Bish Bash Falls. It's a 200 feet multi-drop fall, its highest cascade being eighty feet. The surrounding rocks and cliffs are extremely dangerous and over 25 deaths have occurred at the falls. Like many of the waterfalls in our Weekend Waterfall series, its waters drain into the _______ (fill in the blank) River.
Just back from the lab
Posted by JVJ @ 3:33 pm
October 4th : 2008

Police have just released this digitally enhanced image from the CCTV security footage filmed on Sunday at the kitchen where Eggplant #1 met a sudden and hideous death. Technicians worked through the night to process the image. Chief lab technician J.V. Jones said the breakthrough came at 4am. “We’d just run the image through the chipper. I was thinking of making a sandwich when the screen began to build. Thoughts of ham-and-cheese were immediately replaced with eggplant parm. I mean, that’s one tasty-looking eggplant.”

Police refuse to confirm the identity of the individual depicted in the image. However, a source close to the investigation said, “We have our prime suspect and his name is Eggplant #2.”
Breaking News
Posted by JVJ @ 2:42 pm
October 2nd : 2008
Police have just released this image, believed to be CCTV footage from a security camera mounted in the kitchen where last Sunday Eggplant #1 met an untimely end. Senior Detective J.V. Jones appealed to the public for assistance. “If you recognize the individual in this photograph please contact local law enforcement.” When pressed on whether or not the individual was considered a suspect, Jones was cautious. “At this point he’s just a person of interest. We’d like to talk to him to eliminate him from the investigation.”
Email Question
Posted by JVJ @ 1:36 pm
October 2nd : 2008
What I am looking for is a complete readers list of your books with a recommended reading order. -Linda W
The Book of Words
Volume I
The Baker’s Boy
Volume II
A Man Betrayed
Volume III
Master and Fool
Sword of Shadows
Volume I
A Cavern of Black Ice
Volume II
A Fortress of Grey Ice
Volume III
A Sword From Red Ice
The Barbed Coil
Who killed Eggplant #1?
Posted by JVJ @ 9:46 am
October 1st : 2008
On Sunday evening, somewhere between 1700hrs and 1900hrs (aka “dinner time”), Eggplant #1 met an untimely end. Police were called to the scene after the alarm was raised by a homeless individual who gave her name as “Biggie”. Upon arrival the police discovered the victim pinned to a chopping board by a German kitchen knife. Senior Detective J.V. Jones described the scene as chilling. “I shuddered when I saw it,” she said. “I mean, who cooks eggplant with spring onions?”

Refusing to comment on the ongoing investigation, she would only say that they are “pursuing all leads.” When asked about the whereabouts of Eggplant #1’s brother, Eggplant #2, she admitted they didn’t know where he was. “He was last sited on Saturday morning, rotting on the vine. He hasn’t been seen since. We've isued an AEB (All Eggplants Bulletin) and the public should be aware that we consider him purple and dangerous."
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